In Part Two of my interview with Life Toward Twilight, we’ll be entering into the realm beyond the music to discuss music labels, live performance, and Daniel’s interesting take on Steampunk music. Read it all below!
What is your philosophy on big record labels versus small, independent labels? How has your music been released in the past?
This is an interesting question in that I have worked for “big record labels” in the past. Well, I worked as an IT nerd not having anything to do with the music, per se, but I had significant exposure to some weird stuff. I had one day they set up a stage right outside of my cubical so a very young Taylor Swift could give us a personal performance, and I had to try to barricade myself as much as possible so I could hear the people I was talking on the phone with. I also had an opportunity to heckle Poison as they gave a very outrageous performance at a corporate meeting, a crowd of 100-200 people. It was the height of absurdity, but at least one of them was wearing a Gogol Bordello shirt.
Anyway, I don’t have a “philosophy” here. I have a lot of opinions. I don’t look down on big label music, but it is a fact that big label music is nothing more than a product. I’ve walked by offices where these stuffy businessmen in suits and ties put music in loud stereos and rock out to it, trying to decide what band will be the next big thing. There is no guess work here, they decide someone will be big and it happens. Describing these scenarios as surreal barely captures the full preposterousness of it. Big labels don’t care about art in any way, period. Anyone that argues otherwise has no idea what they are talking about. They generate a product in an effort to generate profit. I have nothing against this, it just is what it is.
I have always promoted and released my own music. I do so now via my own little record label, Bottle Imp Productions. I try to help release music by all sorts of fringe and obscure musical styles. My history in music promotion has always had this as a motivation and have done some rather extreme things to try to bring interesting but obscure music to wider audiences.
I noticed that your website indicates that your live show is being reworked. Where have you performed? What does a typical show include given the unconventional nature of your work?
The unfortunate reality is that my website is somewhat out of date and needs some work. That said, historically, my “live” show has taken on a few different personas. More recently, what I do is akin to DJing. I don’t like to do exclusive shows, pretending to be a band. I provide sound installation for art galleries, that sort of thing. There isn’t a lot to watch or look at in as far as these sorts of shows are concerned.
However, I have done more “live” shows in the past. I have spent a lot of years performing next to rather extreme noise bands, and doing live sound mixing with heavy elements of randomness and experimentation is kinda fun, but only in the right context. I almost always have videos to run with my live music.
Do you have any upcoming shows?
I am providing sound for the third year of DAMNED. I’ve done the sound for this since its first year. Its a pretty incredible show, its like an art gallery and a showcase very fascinating performances. The promoter is a friend of mine and he really sets the bar of quality for shows of this type locally. I provide audio sound scapes for the gallery room, and possible some ball room DJing, unsure of the actual itinerary for this year.
What’s been your biggest challenge as an artist? Your greatest success?
These are hard things to qualify. Lately, its been a real challenge to create anything interesting at all. I have a lot of unfinished material that I am having a hard time putting a bow on. I suppose all artists go through this sort of thing periodically. The biggest challenge, besides that, is simply being an artist that creates very down tempo, laid back and highly atmospheric music and trying to market that in a world where most people only want to listen to dance music. Sometimes it is difficult to find my audience. I enjoy the small nature of my audience, but sometimes it is difficult to reach out and connect.
My greatest success? I don’t know. I’ve done a lot of very cool things. I’ve played shows with very cool people, artists I consider inspirations. I’ve had people I greatly respect highly praise my work. My music is difficult, and I always enjoy finding people that “get it”.
Would you classify your music as Steampunk music? Why or why not?
I don’t know, I suppose some of it is. When I composed “I Swear By All The Flowers”, this really big wave of interest in Steampunk hadn’t really caught on yet. Abney Park was still a gothic darkwave band I think (I remember when those guys topped the charts at mp3.com if that is any indication of my musical background), and Voltaire was singing about Star Trek. But I think interest within the various subcultures was pointing that direction, and by the time I released the album, Steampunk was slowly growing into a particular subculture. My musical proximity was not intentional, and I can make no claims to really being affiliated with Steampunk, outside of a passive interest and helping a few people promote some events of this nature (which is almost a result of my musical proximity).
But I Swear By All the Flowers has such a Steamy feel to it!
Not to beat around the bush, I could never claim that “I Swear By All The Flowers” to have been inspired by the Steampunk movement directly (although perhaps indirectly), and this is mostly because I had never heard of “Steampunk” in the conceptual stages of the album. However, the inspiration for the album largely comes from the same place, and that could speak about my particular subculture affiliations. I was interested in crafting an album using textures that are ambient and sort of industrial in nature, very 20th-21st century types of music, and using exclusively 19th Century sounds and classical stylings. “Neovictorian” is the term that came to mind at the time. All of the audio is sculpted from recordings from late Victorian era, or are sounds that easily could have existed at the time. Music boxes, wax cylinder recordings, sounds from early factories and machines. It shares a lot of spirit with the Steampunk movement. My precise inspiration is a little lost to me these days, the album was mostly a story about an unnamed protagonist, a ghost of a man who passed in the late 1800’s. The album had some certain mythological influences… imagine a lost, wandering ghost trying to find his way home, similar to Odysseus after the Trojan war. The journey yields itself to a lot of introspection, and really, this is a very introspective album.
When speaking in terms of “steampunk music”, it is hard to pin point exactly what that means, in my opinion. Being a big huge music nerd, analyzing Steampunk music is somewhat fascinating to me. It seems that there is less “Steampuk music” and more “music people interested in Steampunk listen to”, in which is the category that my music seems to fall under. When discussing most genres of music, we label things in terms of specific musical nuisance, techniques or stylings. With Steampunk, this isn’t really the case, because there is very little common in terms of style or technique amongst the various appropriate artists. So Steampunk music is very much a specific cultural phenomenon. You generally will not see me promote my music as “Steampunk” because I am reluctant to speak on behalf of that particular subculture, of which I am only personally involved in somewhat loosely. It seems most Steampunk conventions have musical guests such as Abney Park or Voltaire. It is hard for me to recommend my album to someone in comparison to these artists because my music has very, very little in common with them outside of a basically antique mood and the weird sort of new/old dichotomy. Frankly, I would worry big fans of Abney Park could find my music very boring! I could feel more comfortable recommending my music to people who are fans of, say, Jill Tracy or maybe Zoe Keating or other artists that are more low key, and classical in nature yet still seem to be “Steampunk” in some way or another. If I seem apprehensive to throw the term Steampunk around, this should explain why.
Interestingly, my album more introduced me to Steampunk than the other way around. Since releasing the album, various media people, DJs, and promoters gravitated to the nature of my work and started reaching out to me. My interest perked and since then, being someone deeply affiliated with the Gothic subculture that at least a bit of “Steampunk” grew out of. I’ve picked up DJing a few similarly themed events (including one attempt at a local Steampunk night), etc. It worked as an amazing outlet for me to spin some of the music I love that doesn’t work in other environments I am used to performing in. A lot of the new recordings I am working on fall under this sort of umbrella as well.
To learn more about Life Toward Twilight, please visit Daniel’s website. There, you’ll be able to listen to and purchase his works including I Swear By All the Flowers.